Page last updated at 08:27 GMT, Tuesday, 11 September 2012 09:27 UK

Cost fears raised over EU maritime pollution laws

Concerns have been raised that a new law on cutting pollution from ships in Europe's waters could be in breach of the EUs principle of "equal treatment".

On 11 September 2012, MEPs debated a Commission proposal to introduce stricter limits on sulphur emissions from ships, to improve air and water quality in coastal regions.

Under the proposed directive, the maximum sulphur content of fuels will be limited to 0.5% for all ships by 2020.

However vessels operating in the busy shipping lanes of the English Channel, North Sea and Baltic Sea will be subject to a tougher limit of 0.1%.

MEPs including British Conservative Jacqui Foster and Swedish Christian Democrat Christof Fjellner warned that it would create an uneven playing field.

Mr Fjellner warned the new laws could cost the shipping industry in northern Europe "billions" of euros.

However Finnish Green MEP Satu Hassi, the parliament's lead negotiator on the directive said the costs of the new law would be outweighed by the benefits of cutting the costs of treatment for the health effects of pollution.

Environmental campaigners estimate that 50,000 deaths a year are caused by air pollution from ships.

Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout agreed, saying the directive represented "a good day for Europe".

The proposals have already been agreed with the Council of Ministers - representing EU member states - and were approved by MEPs by 606 votes to 55 at the daily voting session later in the day.

Useful links:

Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work.

A disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations, on the European Parliament's website.

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